Archive for June, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 1, 2011: a Festive Day in Beijing

Welcome to my Corruption Pool

没有共产党就没有新中国: Welcome to my Corruption Pool

Just in case that you haven’t noticed: the motherland’s mother of the masses celebrates her 90th birthday on Friday.
Hu Jintao will deliver an important speech at the Great Hall of the People, and China National Radio (CNR, 中国之声) and all other branches of Chinese state radio will begin coverage of the festive occasion at 9.50 local time. There will be 24 hours of special coverage are looming on CNR alone,focusing on the presentation of the CCP’s brilliant achievements, and transmitting the nation’s sons’ and daughters’  heartfelt good wishes (or blessings)  to the Chinese Communist Party (集中展现中国共产党取得的光辉成就,传递中华儿女对党的生日的衷心祝福).

Just as the CCP likes to say: 没有共产党就没有新中国 (méiyǒu gòngchǎndǎng jiù méiyǒu xīn zhōngguó). Or: Without the CCP, China would still be very feudal.

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Related
» Book Review: Gang then, Dynasty now, May 12, 2010

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

More about Lee Teng-hui’s Indictment

The Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office indicted former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui on Thursday, on charges of embezzlement. Also indicted was Liu Tai-ying, a major KMT manager during Lee’s presidency. As far as Lee is concerned, the charges are apparently not about unjustified enrichment, but about diverting funds (挪用), and money-laundering (洗钱). A beneficiary, according to the charges, was the Taiwan Research Institute (TRI, 台湾综合研究院), a think tank which was founded in 1994, six years after Lee had assumed office, and two years before he won another term as president in free elections. Lee is currently its honorary chairman.

The case involved sensitive diplomatic issues, and the indictment was therefore not made public in full, the Liberty Times (自由時報) quotes the investigators.

The Financial Times, quoting Taiwanese mediareports that a giveaway of 400 million NTD to an unidentified country in 1994 was in fact one to South Africa. South Africa had diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the time, and Taipei’s diplomacy traditionally keeps its diplomatic allies happy with various kinds of financial support.

The Taipei Times‘ online edition apparently hasn’t even broken news about the indictment yet, but Focus Taiwan published details about the indictment and the amounts of money used to various ends. According to Focus Taiwan’s report, the bill of indictment also accuses Liu Tai-ying of having pocketed more than 440,000 USD from an amount of 250 million NTD, received from Lee for the funding of the Taiwan Research Center’s establishment.

Investigations concerning the case have been going on since 2003, and in 2010, the Special Investigation Division, which belongs to the ministry of justice, underwent a reshuffle in which ten out of twelve investigators were replaced, according to the China Post.

Some two months later, in July 2010, president Ma Ying-jeou told Jerome Cohen, an American professor of law and once Ma’s mentor, that he wanted to “leave a legacy of building a country based on the rule of law”, and announced that a new agency exclusively responsible for fighting government corruption would be established under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The Commission, which – similar to the SID and in contrast to Hong Kong’s Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) – is not independent from the government, is apparently not in charge of investigating Lee Teng-hui’s case.

According to a report by the BBC‘s Lin Nansen in 2010, the now oppositional DPP had plans to create a dedicated independent commission against corruption during its eight years in government from 2000 to 2008, which had been blocked by the KMT majority in the Legislative Yuan.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lee Teng-hui Indicted

Former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was indicted on Thursday,

on charges of embezzling state funds during his tenure in office from 1988 through 2000,

reports Focus Taiwan, quoting the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office. The amount in question is 7.8 million USD, from a secret account for national security. The SID allegations is worded in ways a judge might use when explaining a verdict, but the BBC’s Chinese website notes that the investigators are asking for an appropriate punishment (适当之刑), in the light of the former president’s advanced age and the contributions he had made to the country (但在具体量刑上称,念及李登辉已年迈并对国家贡献,而请求法官量处“适当之刑”).

The BBC describes the  secret “state security” fund as a heritage from the KMT’s dictatorship over Taiwan. Lee, a Taiwanese-born KMT member, was democratically elected as president in 1996. He had served as a president appointed by the KMT prior to the elections.

Lee is highly critical of incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou‘s (KMT) performance, but it has also appeared as if Ma wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Lee indicted or a verdict brought against him.

My spontaneous reaction: if Lee should get into serious legal trouble, he may be prepared to share much of his inside knowledge about the KMT’s history. I’m wondering if the SID’s call for an appropriate sentence that would take the defendant’s achievements into account, too, is actually taking the KMT’s political interests into account. Lee is apparently no longer a KMT member, but certainly an insider.

Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for January next year.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Europe and China: If you Buy our BONDS, we’ll Buy YOUR Fairytales

Bad decisions are costly. Unless a political class is principled, the consequences of screwed economic policies may zip their mouths when it would be important that they open their mouths. And the more short-sighted their policies were and are, the more their consequences will narrow even their future options.

Germany’s economy is doing fine, by current international standards. But the currency it shares with many other European countries, the Euro, is in trouble. That has been palpable during Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s visit here.

German daily taz describes how China is using its surplus money – Chinese companies are investing worldwide, and Germany is seen as a safe location to invest.

The acquisitions the taz describes don’t seem to pose too difficult questions concerning technology. Rossmann, some of whose shares are owned by Chinese investors, is a drugstore chain – a retailing business. Medion, probably soon to be acquired by Lenovo, is a trader, rather than a maker of technology. And as the paper points out, Chinese companies have only invested 600 million Euros in Germany so far. German companies have invested 20 billion Euros in China.

“Fear is a bad counselor”, German minister of economic affairs is quoted as saying. But depending on what kinds of German companies are acquired by Chinese ones, technology drain is an obvious risk involved.

On June 15, FTD (Financial Times Germany) quoted a banker as saying that the machine-building and the car-building industry  have become China’s preferred foreign fields of investment. While China hasn’t yet been recognized as a full market economy by America and the European Union (while it has been by Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore), it seems to be in a position in Europe to act as if it had this status already. At the same time, it can still protect its own industries from foreign ivnestors at will.

A troubled German high-tech company may be quite happy to see Chinese investors who are willing to invest. In China, such a company would be considered one of strategic importance to the state.

Things could be worse. Before visiting Germany, Wen toured Hungary and Britain (both countries outside Euroland, btw). Hungary in particular is in trouble. After Wen’s announcement to buy Hungarian bonds on a massive scale, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán said that there was no reason to worry about his country’s state finances any more.

It was only consistent for Orbán to say that “we in Hungary take our hats off to China”, in the light of China’s rapid economic economic upswing – in reply to a journalist’s question if ideological issues had been discussed as well.

Both countries respected each others policies, said Orbán. For an economic turnaround, Hungary was in need of new alliances and new kinds of allies, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) quoted Orbán. Both China and Hungary “opposed scalper business” and stood for an economy “based on labor”.

Orbán’s approach may not surprise people familiar with the ways he rules his own country (as far as the constitution allows for that).

But his predecessor’s government had been pretty kind to the CCP’s human-rights record, too. In September 2007, Amnesty International criticized a Hungarian government spokesman who had said that although China had adopted the protection of human rights into its constitution three years earlier, the practice depended on local cultural traditions.

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Related
» A “Feisty, Power-Hungry Prime Minister, The Guardian, January 3, 2011
» Li Keqiang: Industriousness and Wisdom, January 9, 2011
» Wen: “China is a Friend Indeed”, Xinhua, October 7, 2010

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Freedom of Expression vs Protection of Reputation

Whenever there is a discussion about these two fundamental rights – freedom of expression and protection of reputation -, it runs a risk of becoming sectarian. For people who put freedom of expression above everything else, anything that may hamper it will look like authoritarian or totalitarian practice. That’s especially the case when such discussions occur on China- or Taiwan-related blogs. In China, there is no freedom of expression, even though the PRC constitution’s article 35 would seem to suggest otherwise. In Taiwan, both the constitution and daily practice would by and large suggest that there is freedom of expression – even though protection of reputation plays an important role, too.

This is no blog about legal issues, as I have mentioned in previous posts, when things got sort of “legal”. Expect no expertise from yours truly. But it may be worth mentioning that the degree to which freedom of expression prevails in the United States, even when conflicting with other individual rights, appears to be an exception even within the West. Britain for example sees both freedom of expression and protection of reputation as fundamental rights.

In Taiwan, a blogger – reportedly – commented maliciously on a noodle restaurant, and was fined by a Taichung court. The degree to which she was fined seems to be unclear when you follow a number of Taiwanese blogs, and as the mainstream press doesn’t appear to be sufficiently interested in getting to the bottom of the story, and as most blogs tend to comment on ready-made stories  they find within the mainstream press (my own blog is no different), I’m not expecting to know more about “what really happened” in Taichung in the future than I do now. Which is as much as nothing.

Once again, as almost usual, I came across the story through Echo Taiwan‘s blog. The commenting thread which follows his post may come across as quite angry at times.

The same may be true for the thread that follows MKL‘s (My Kafkaesque Life) post on the same topic. He took the opportunity to give several fellow bloggers a severe dressing-down, but not without his own share of errors or unclarities concerning the actual Taichung court case. The saga continues here, on another of MKL’s threads.

Given Taiwan’s – and the ruling KMT’s – history, it doesn’t really surprise me that trust in the country’s judicial institutions is a rather scarce commodity. The Chen Shui-bian case alone (the only one I “studied” at some length) should help to explain as to why that is so.

But how far should freedom of expression go? I’ve asked myself that question very often. I know how far I, personally, want to go as a blogger. I was taught to respect other people and their individual rights. I could have done away with the habit – I’ve done with other things I’ve learned as a child, too -, but I never felt a desire to do so. And still, I’m blogging on WordPress for a reason. Germany’s laws are much more restrictive than America’s, or Britain’s in this field. On a German domain, I might be subject to legal harassment while I’m being left alone on this platform. Jun Jie, a fellow German blogger, was facing a -general, not individual – threat from politics which didn’t materialize after all, but may still do so at a later date.

So in short, I’m at odds with some of my own country’s policies and its politicians’ likely objectives in this field, despite my rather conservative view of what a blogger should, and should not do. It was for this view that I found MKL’s recent posts on the Taichung legal case refreshing.

How far should freedom of expression go? It’s a vague question on a subject which would actually require clear definitions.

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Update/Related
» More on the Case, Echo Taiwan, July 3, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Message to a Barbarian

OK, listen [to the red songs], you won’t comprehend them anyway. It will be as if you were listening to folk songs.

听吧,反正听不懂,就当听民歌了~

A commenter on Huanqiu Shibao, on former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder‘s (reported) desire to listen to a red song concert in Chongqing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hu Jia: Sort of Free

Hu Jia has been released from jail. On Sunday, his wife Zeng Jinyan told Reuters that she did not know when Mr. Hu might be able to speak publicly, writes the New York Times, which also quotes Hu’s mother.

He returned home before dawn on Sunday, the Huffington Post quotes a tweet from Zeng. “Safe, very happy. Needs to recuperate for a period of time”, she wrote.

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Related Tag: Hu Jia

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Update / Related
» Another Dissident Released, Austin Ramzy, Global Spin (Time), June 26, 2011

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Obituary: Yelena Bonner, 1923 – 2011

Yelena Bonner, née Lusik Georgievna Alikhanova, an Armenian-Jewish USSR citizen and then a Russian citizen, died in Boston on June 18, 2011, after a heart attack. Her father and one of her uncles were killed during Stalin’s “Great Purge“. Her mother served a term in a labor camp, and lived in internal exile afterwards.

Decades after, Bonner and her husband Andrei Sakharov would live in internal exile, too, in Gorky, from 1980 to 1986. Bonner was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, together with Yury Orlov (who was the  first head of the group), Ludmila Alexeeva, Mikhail Bernshtam, Alexander Ginzburg, Pyotr Grigorenko, Alexander Korchak, Malva Landa, Anatoly Marchenko, Vitaly Rubin, and Anatoly Shcharansky. During world war 2, she volunteered as a nurse with the Red Army and was wounded, Russland Aktuell wrote on Monday. Her eyesight had been impaired ever since.

EU Parliament president Jerzy Buzek said that

Elena Bonner fought fiercely for the rights of the individual and family of every ethnic group and every state. She witnessed and influenced the 20th century. Along with her husband, scientist and human rights defender Andrei Sakharov, she gave hope to the people in desperate need for freedom and justice.

During Sakharov’s internal exile in Gorky, Bonner was his only contact to the outside world, Dutch evening paper NRC Handelsblad wrote last Sunday, quoting  memories of one of its former correspondents. She travelled to Moscow once every six weeks, smuggled his memoirs abroad (the script had twice been stolen by the KGB), gave press conferences, and kept calling on relatives.

Theirs was a joint cause, the Economist writes this week:

he radiating quiet composure, she nervy, passionate, sucking on cigarettes while she talked; he abstracted, lost in his writing, while she made jam, stewed chicken, washed floors and organised dissent, a “doer” always.

He went on hunger strike for her, at last persuading the authorities to let her go abroad for medical treatment. While there, in 1975, she collected his Nobel peace prize and delivered his speech for him.

Bonner wouldn’t compromise in the 1990s either. Gregor Ziolkowski, a Berliner Zeitung correspondent at the time, described his impressions in October 1995, after listening to a discussion between Bonner and former German television correspondent Gerd Ruge.

Nobody would manage to turn her into a hypocrite in her late years either, wrote Ziolkowski, and therefore,

she talks Turkey: about “democrats” only attracted to their booties, about intellectuals who try to be close to the powerful, and communists who strive for enrichment.

But then comes a surprising turning point. Somehow, the whole misery begins to look like the prerequisite for hope. The dilemma of disillusionment can be a healing thing. And therefore, she sees potential for the better right in those young people who reject the political circus, because they see through the lies. Only once, she gets vocal, and you sense the civil rights activist’s verve: “With the Chechen war, we have left a magic circle, and the West, by virtually tolerating it, has become complicit.”

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Related
» Vitaly A. Rubin (1976): Thoughts do not Die, Nov 29, 2008

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